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Archive for May, 2013

prayer-changes-me

(This concludes our series on Prayer as it relates to Whole Life Worship which began on May 15, 2013)

As we’ve discussed various types of prayers over the past couple of weeks, there is an obvious theme: Prayer is much more than just asking God to change things. Indeed, as we look at the role of prayer as it relates to Whole Life Worship, one of the main things prayer does is “change me.”

Richard Foster once said, something like, “How can one ‘master’ prayer if the main function of prayer is to be ‘mastered by it?’” (“Finding the Heart’s True Home”)

This does not mean that prayer does not change things or that intercessory prayer is not important. Far from it! I believe that prayer absolutely changes things. It is one of the great mysteries of life. I love to pray and intercede for people, places, and situations. And I believe that God hears my prayers.

But one thing I am becoming more and more aware, as the years go by, is that I often don’t know what to pray for. And when I think I know what to pray for, it ends up being the wrong thing to pray for. The reason: my wisdom and character falls short.

As James writes, “When you ask (pray), you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:3).

I didn’t used to think James was talking about me. After all, I don’t spend what I get on my pleasures. Or do I?

Now that I think about it, when I ask God to do something for me, most of the time I’m simply asking Him to make my life a little easier, more convenient, more prosperous, or more fruitful. That sounds like stuff “for my pleasure,” doesn’t it? And I can go on and on with other examples. But enough with self-disclosure (and self-embarrassment)!

The point is that my intercession will always be wanting unless I go through transformation. I can’t pray to change the world without me changing first. How else would I know how to pray to change the world? So praying to be changed actually helps me to pray for change. As my character is transformed more and more to the image of Christ, I begin to see the right things that need to be prayed for in situations, in people I intercede for, in my church, in my ministry.

Paul says it well in the second half of our Whole Life Worship definition: Romans 12:2

Do not be conformed to the world’s mold, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to discern and approve (and pray for) what God’s will is; his good, pleasing and perfect will.

I pray the Jesus Prayer, the “Help my unbelief” prayer, the Lord’s Prayer (both reciting and using it as a model), Contemplative Prayer, conversational prayer, spiritual language prayer, and any other prayer I can think of, so that I might be transformed more into the image of  my Savior, Christ. I choose first to be mastered by God through my prayer. Then I can pray, with greater power and effectiveness, for others, for the church, and for the world.

It is how Whole Life Worshipers pray.

How do you find that prayer changes you before it changes things?

What helps you to be “mastered” by God through prayer?

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Bringing It Back

god

(This is part of an on-going series discussing the role of prayer in Whole Life Worship that began on May 25, 2013)

Some view the last phrase of the Lord’s Prayer as nice closing, kind of like an explanation point at the end of the sentence:

For Thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

In fact, some of the ancient manuscripts do not include that phrase (which is why you have a footnote at the end of Matthew 6:13). But I believe there is a very important reason why that phrase is included. It brings us back to the most important focus of the Lord’s Prayer:

It’s about Who we are praying to, not what we are praying for.

If you remember several blogs ago, the Lord’s Prayer begins with the nature of God: that He is our Father, that His name (character) is holy (meaning, “set apart”), and that His Kingdom and will are the most important things we can align our lives to.

After a couple of lines of specific petitions (daily provision, forgiveness, protection), Jesus reminds us that what makes prayer powerful is not what we ask nor how we ask it, but Who we are asking. It also serves to re-align our prayers, lest we forget that whatever God does with our prayers, what we desire most is His Kingdom and will.

There are three things we lift up:

1. “Thine is the Kingdom” – there is only one King in our lives (and it’s not us). In this declaration, we humbly abdicate the thrones of our heart to Him. We also give ourselves fully to the larger work of God’s reign on earth through Christ. My agendas are jettisoned for the purposes of the Kingdom of God.

2. “Thine is the Power” – this recognizes a couple of things. First, I recognize that the only way these prayers will be answered is through God’s power; not my own. I cannot, in my own effort, build God’s Kingdom, nor can I do His will in my own power. I need grace, strength, and determination that come from God’s hand. Also, at the same time, I dedicate whatever power I can contribute toward His agenda. I submit my hands, my feet, my intellect, and my passion to His work and ways.

3. “Thine is the Glory” – when I serve God and allow Him to transform my life, Light will begin to shine in and through my life. I know that this Light (aka “glory”) does not come from me; it comes from Him living in me. So when I give God the glory, I’m not just acting modest (“aw shucks, I had nothing to do with it”), it is the Truth. The Light comes from Him. The transformation came from His hand. The desire to do good and right? Yep, it came from God, too. I love the scene in the Revelation where all the saints, throughout the ages, cast their crowns of gold down on the glassy lake before the throne of God! We do it because it is totally the RIGHT thing to do. It’s all because of Him!

“Forever” – is not a time in the distant future. Forever is the present and the future. It begins the moment Christ is Lord in our lives. As time and space define the parameters of material existence, “Forever” defines the parameter of the realm of God. “Forever” is the realm we choose to live in each day as we practice Whole Life Worship of God.

It’s all pretty awesome, isn’t it?

Amen (so be it)!

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god's protection

(This is an on-going series on Prayer as it relates to Whole Life Worship which began on May 25, 2013)

As we move through the Lord’s Prayer as a model of prayer, the next petition has to do with our protection:

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

One of the problems people have with evil and darkness is that we don’t understand the nature of its power against us. Many underestimate the power of darkness. They think that evil exists only in bad people who do bad things. Others fail to see the power of seduction, manipulation and temptation as influences that are initiated and enhanced by forces outside of the human psyche. Some also limit evil only to those things that are immoral, illegal and produce tangible harm to others. People tend to discount the subtle evil that lurks “within.” They don’t see how things like pride, fear, worry, self-centeredness, entitlement, unbounded competition and other “harmless” vices can destroy lives and keep people in bondage, just as easily as the “greater” sins of stealing, victimization, and murder.

Others overestimate the power of darkness. They see a demon under every bush. They view every calamity, accident, illness and misfortune as a form of spiritual attack. Some see sin as a power they can never overcome in this lifetime and resign themselves to lives of “hanging on until Jesus comes.” Others see evil as being an equal power to good (and God). They think God will win in the end, but only after an epic battle that involves some risk of losing.

Neither of these perspectives is true. And the prayer model of Jesus demonstrates this.

Yes, darkness and evil are real and need to be recognized. The Bible identifies three main influences that want to cause us to sin and fall away from following Christ: the world (influences from our culture, 1 John 2:15-17), the flesh (influences from our fallen nature, Romans 8:5), and the devil (the active realm of darkness, Luke 4:1-13). We are foolish (and play into the hands of evil) if we think that any of these influences don’t exist. As Peter shares in his letter, the purpose of evil is to devour and destroy us (1 Peter 5:8).

However, God is not threatened by any of these forces of darkness – at all! He easily destroyed the power of darkness through the Cross of Christ. In fact, the Apostle John affirms that the presence of Christ in us is far greater than “he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

But we need to pray; not so much to activate God’s power against darkness, but so that we will be aware of His power as we face darkness and evil. We are so easily distracted, seduced, and influenced by the wily, insidious nature of darkness. The prayer puts our hearts on guard and places our confidence right where it needs to be: on our Sovereign, Omnipotent Lord.

The prayer is two-fold. First, it is proactive against “temptation.” God knows that the first line of defense must come at the temptation level. God does not “lead us” into temptation. But he knows how easily “we are led” into it. This first petition gives us the preventative awareness that “sin is crouching at the door” (Gen 4:7) at various opportunities in life. I find that when I pray this petition, I will be more likely to “nip things at the bud,” by turning the other way or diverting my attention away from temptation or offer up a quick prayer for help. The holy path of following Jesus is lined with the remains of a million temptations that have been “nipped at the bud.”

But the prayer also protects us from ourselves. When we give in to temptation, when we become helplessly bound to a destructive path, God also “delivers us from evil.” Salvation is not just for eternal deliverance. Jesus saves – all the time! He answers me when I call for help; whether it is a small yelp to get me out of a dilemma or a blood curdling scream for deliverance. As one who was saved from an addictive behavior, I know the God’s deliverance power.

So let’s not underestimate the presence of darkness and evil – nor its power to lead us down dark paths of destruction. But let’s especially not underestimate the power of God through Jesus Christ. He is always victorious for us over the darkness, when we abide in Him and call on His name.

How has God helped you fend off temptation?

How has God delivered you from evil?

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Why We Must Forgive

Forgive1---Copy

(This is an ongoing series on prayer and how it relates to Whole Life Worship that began on May 15, 2013)

This last weekend my oldest son, Tim (@spoofer56, #intervarsitystaff, #calstatefullerton) preached an amazing sermon at his mom and dad’s home church (@communityrancho, #communitybaptistchurchranchocucamonga). This is the church he grew up as a child and teenager. He did a fantastic job! Yes, his mom was very proud (as was his dad and the home town folks). In fact, you can listen to his sermon on podcast (https://www.findcommunity.com/index.cfm/pageid/911/index.html )

This weekend, in striking parallelism, I will be preaching at my mom’s home church (a big shout out to Northminister Presbyterian Church in Bakersfield, CA). Like Tim, this was the church of my spiritual roots. I learned about Jesus and was first involved in worship ministry here. As well, I hope to make my mom proud, as well as the home town folks who were instrumental in my spiritual growth.

It’s not every day that you get to go back to your “home town” and share the Word of God with people who knew you when you were “knee high.” So, what am I going to preach about to the good people at NPC?

The power of forgiveness.

Why preach on this topic? It’s not because I think that this church has a specific issue with forgiveness. It’s because I believe this is one of the big issues facing the credibility of Christianity for all churches, for all Christians. This is a topic that needs to be preached many times, to many congregations, as often as possible – regardless of whatever else is happening in the church. Why? Because …

If Christians cannot forgive, the integrity and credibility of the Gospel is lost.

Forgiveness is central to the Gospel: First, it is Christ’s sacrifice on the cross that grants us forgiveness of our sins. The greatest price that could be paid – the blood of God’s only Begotten Son – was shed on our behalf so that we can be, among other things, forgiven.

Second, the evidence of forgiveness of sins in our lives is the ability to forgive others for the sins committed against us. As Jesus explained in his parable of the Unmerciful Servant (Matt. 18:21-35), God expects those who have been forgiven much to show mercy and forgiveness to others. In his rather theologically perplexing statement, Jesus also mentions that if we do not forgive people their sins against us, how can we expect God to forgive us our sins (Matt. 6:15)?

Third, forgiveness is also central to the ministry and calling of Christ-followers. We are to forgive others as we have been forgiven by God through Christ (Eph. 4:32). The Gospel gives each of us to a “ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:18-19). This involves reconciling people to God and to each other. But how can we call people to this amazing reconciliation, if we have not yet taken steps to forgive others?

But to forgive others is easier said than done, even with the knowledge and understanding of God’s forgiveness of our great sin through the Cross of Christ. There is something powerful (the lethal combination of the world, flesh and devil) that wants to keep us from letting go of those who have done us wrong. We feel like we might lose something significant if we really forgive others. This is why Jesus includes the issue of forgiveness as a major topic for prayer:

Forgive us our sins/debts/trespasses, as we forgive those who sin/debt/trespass against us.

We need the power of prayer, as well as the power of the Cross, to see the movement of forgiveness take place in our lives. The forces of darkness know that if they can keep Christ-followers from forgiving others, they can keep a lid on the power of the Gospel. Forgiving others requires faith, dying to self, and relinquishing control. This is a humility that can only come through God’s grace in prayer.

But forgiveness is the most transforming force in the universe. When forgiveness is given (by even the least or most ordinary person), it is more powerful than nuclear weapons. It releases the power of truth, grace, and healing to people’s lives. It can soften the hardest of hearts. It can bring low the proudest of egos. It can raise those who are dead in bitterness and resentment from their graves. Most of all, it points to the existence of a loving, redemptive God who works and moves powerfully in a realm made cold and hard by the sins of humanity.

So that’s why I’m preaching forgiveness this Sunday. Yes, I hope I make my mom and the home town folks proud. But even more important, our “Daddy” wants us to forgive, and He gives us the power to do so.

Is there someone in your life that you need to forgive?

Do you see forgiveness as something we need to ask God for power to do?

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pancakes

My adorable grandsons (DeeJay, age 8; Aiden, age 4) came over for breakfast this morning. As is our tradition, I made “Grandpa’s Epic Pancakes.” Actually, the pancakes themselves are not so epic (just a cup of Krusteaz and water), but it’s how we make them – together, as a group project. They pull up a chair to the oven griddle. I pour out the pancake batter into fine, round circles. DeeJay flips the pancakes. Aiden butters the pancakes. Voila! Epic Pancakes. Add a few little smokies, some chopped strawberries, and you have “Epic Breakfast” with Grandpa Doug and Grandma Letty!

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While making the pancakes, I asked DeeJay, “Do you know where Epic Pancakes come from?” “From the mix,” he replied. “And the mix?” I asked. “From wheat.” “And the wheat?” “From seeds.” “And the seed??” Pause… “From God?” “Correct!”

Then I prodded some more. “And how did we get the pancakes?” “You bought the mix from the store.” “And how did I get the money?” “From paper?” (oops!) “No, I did something to get the money – and I didn’t rob a bank!” “You worked for it?” “Yes, and how was I able to work for my money?” “You use your body and your mind.” (that answer actually took a little bit of prodding). And finally I asked, “And where did I get my body and mind?” “From God!” “Correct, again!”

It registered. DeeJay saw that every blessing we have ultimately comes from God. The materials we need for food. The ability to work. The charity we receive from others. As the Apostle James says, “Every good and perfect gift comes from the Father of the Heavenly Lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17).

So when Jesus taught his disciples to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” it wasn’t a demand born out of “entitlement” (which, I think is the number one sin issue in our American culture), but out a sense of proper perspective and humble dependency.

What brings food to our table? It’s not because of our hard work or ingenuity. It’s not because of our job, our boss, our company. It’s not because of the economy or the government. Like the air we breathe or the heart that pumps life giving blood in our veins: It’s all because of God, who graciously provides – whether we thank him or not, whether we realize it or not.

Whole Life Worshipers realize that everything comes from God. And, in response, we give everything we have to God and for God. It’s the proper perspective – “in view of God’s mercy” (Romans 12:1). So when we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” it is an expression of thanksgiving and perspective. We know that yesterday’s daily bread came from His gracious hand.

However, it is also a prayer of humble dependency. We ask God to provide for our daily bread. Our life savings could be wiped out in a moment’s notice. We can become disabled in a blink of an eye. We are one natural disaster or one internet glitch away from being homeless, destitute and impoverished. It is total naïvete to think there are any guarantees for tomorrow.

But, as followers of Jesus, we do not fret or worry about tomorrow (Matt 6:34). Rather, we pray. Just as we recognize that God is reason why we have provision today  (and it’s not because of what we’ve done), so we can have total trust that God will provide for us tomorrow – come what may.

So as the four of us sat down to “Epic Breakfast,” we all knew why we bowed our heads in prayer before eating our meal: We have an Epic God who loves us and gracious provides us our daily bread (or pancakes, if Grandpa, DeeJay and Aiden are cooking).

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Alignment

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(This is an ongoing series about prayer as it relates to Whole Life Worship which started on May 15, 2013)

I’ve learned this the hard way. When my wheels are not aligned it gets expensive. I go through tires quicker and I get worse gas mileage. It’s also dangerous, as I have to compensate my steering against the pull of a misaligned wheel.

The same is true with our lives. When they are not aligned with the right thing it can be expensive and dangerous. Relationships fall apart through lives that are aligned with deception and selfishness. Fortunes are lost through lives that are aligned with addictive behaviors. Time is wasted on lives that are aligned on the wrong perceptions. Generations are tainted and families destroyed when one person makes a poor alignment decision.

In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus addresses the alignment issue:

Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

There is only one way a creature was meant to live: in alignment with the ways of the Creator. Everything else will result in the “wheels falling off the wagon.”

It is not enough to call God, “Father.” Nor is it enough to revere His name. We need to follow His ways. We need to align ourselves with His purposes.

Asking for God’s Kingdom to come is asking for the reign of God to extend beyond the reaches of Heaven (another word for “that which is under His reign”) to the human realm of earth. At one time, the realm of the earth was under God’s reign. But you know the story; there was sin and the Fall, the transference of the earthly and human realm to the powers of darkness, the redemption by the Son of God, and now – slowly but surely – the Kingdom of this world is becoming the Kingdom of our God and of His Christ. While God desires to see His Kingdom to come to all people, it is imperative that the one person who needs this alignment the most is the one whose face we see in the mirror everyday: you and me.

When we pray for God’s Kingdom to come, we are asking God to rule in our lives. This is something we need to do regularly. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross made it possible to be free from the prison of sin and death. Now I live in the freedom of God’s Kingdom – but I need to align myself daily (if not several times during the day) to the reign of God. It means that I am not in charge of my life; the Lord is.

This has a tremendous upside. While it is true that I am surrendering my life to God, I’m also putting myself under His protection, His provision, and His grace. I don’t have to worry about things and situations that are out of my hands. My life is totally in the hands of my Loving King, who is Almighty, Wise, Omnipresent, and Sovereign.

In the prayer, I also align my actions to God’s will. Jesus gives us the best example of what that means when he said, “The Son can do nothing by himself; he can only do what he sees his Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does” (John 5:19). Doing God’s will is simply doing what He commands us to do. This assumes that we are listening and seeking Him. Romans 12:1-2 points to offering ourselves to God as a living sacrifice (which, by the way, is Whole Life Worship). When we do this, we are transformed so that we can know and do God’s will.

This alignment of Kingdom reign and alignment of God’s will results in a life that glorifies God. It also results in a life of fruitfulness (John 15) and abundance (John 10:10).

When we pray this part of the prayer, we are not just aligning the “wheels” of our lives, we are gassing up the car and heading down the right path … to life, to Whole Life Worship.

When you pray do you take time to align yourself to God’s reign and will?

What are specific ways we adjust our lives to this alignment?

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hallowedbethyname

(This is a continuing series on prayer as it relates to Whole Life Worship which began on May 15, 2013)

To an American citizen living in the early 1960’s, John F. Kennedy was the most powerful man on the planet. He was President of the United States, Defender of the Free World, and Commander in Chief of the most powerful military forces. He was a decisive leader, whose decisions had global ramifications.

However, to two children in America (named John-John and Caroline) he was simply “Daddy.” I think one of the most poignant photos I’ve ever seen was John-John playing hide-and-go-seek with his Daddy in the Oval Office. In it we see a great juxtaposition of roles: the Daddy who is also the most powerful man in the world.

I liken this to the first two phrases of the Lord’s Prayer: “Our Father in Heaven” and “Hallowed be Thy Name.” As we discussed earlier, Jesus taught his disciples to address God as “Abba/Daddy.” But we must never forget who our Daddy is: Holy God Almighty.

“Hallowed” is another word for “holy” – which means “set apart,” “like none other.” In Middle Eastern cultures, especially in Jewish Palestine, one’s “name” represented one’s character. For example, “Jacob” means “trickster, conniver.” And certainly, the Jacob of Genesis was that – as he faked out his brother out of a birthright and his dad into giving him a blessing. But when Jacob came to grips with who he turned out to be and wrestled with God, his name was changed to “Israel” – which means, “prevailed with God.” And that name reflected his new, transformed character.

God has many names in the Bible, and each one tells us about his character. Some of the names given to God were compound: They involved using His personal name (“Yahweh” – written as “LORD” in most English translations and meaning “I Am”) and a specific description of who He is. For example, in Genesis 22 after God provided a ram in the thicket for the sacrifice, Abraham called God, “Yahweh-Jireh” which means “The LORD who provides.” There are several other compound names in the Bible, including:

Yahweh-Tsidkenu: The LORD, my righteousness

Yahweh-M’kaddesh: The LORD who makes holy

Yahweh-Shammah: The LORD who is there

Yahweh-Rophe: The LORD is my healer

Yahweh-Nissi: The LORD is my banner

Yahweh-Rohi: The LORD, my shepherd

When I pray “hallowed be Thy name,” I spend quite a bit of time remembering the names of God (these names, not to mention several other names: “Alpha and Omega,” “the Vine,” “The LORD of Hosts,” etc.) and then set God apart in my life with that characteristic. For example, when I set God apart as the LORD, my righteousness (Yahweh-Tsidkenu), I remember that my own righteousness is like a “dirty rag” (according to Isaiah). I need the righteousness that God provides through Jesus Christ, who lived a perfect, sinless life. Also because of Christ, I don’t have to find my right-ness in what others think about me, how I look, what degrees I’ve earned, how much money I make, how talented I am, or how famous I am. Likewise, I don’t sweat it if I’m not smart, rich, handsome or famous. In God’s eyes, I have the righteousness of Jesus. Hallowing God’s name as my Righteousness sets my mind on the right track as I face the challenges of the day that will test me on whether I will trust in what God thinks or what people think. I find it extremely freeing to pray in this way.

Rev. Clyde Hodson (clydehodson@prayermentor.org) has an excellent resource on how to pray the compound names of Yahweh. Also, Larry Lea’s book, “Could You Not Tarry for One Hour?” is a good resource on praying through the Lord’s Prayer in six, ten-minute segments; one of which is “hallowed be Thy name.”

Knowing who our “Daddy” is and setting Him apart as the One who fulfills all the Biblical attributes in our lives is transforming and, therefore, a key aspect of Whole Life Worship. As it says in John 17:3, “And this is eternal life: that they (meaning “us”) know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”

Do you focus on how great the Father is when you pray?

How has that helped direct and impact your life?

#clydehodson #prayermentor #lordsprayer #larrylea #couldyounottarryforonehour

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